Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has said South Africans should expect further delays in any decision on ending e-tolls, as the government is considering multiple funding options.
According to Mbalula, who was speaking in a parliamentary questions session reported on by BusinessTech, his department has submitted multiple funding options for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) for a cabinet decision.
Following the assessment of the options, the cabinet instructed both the Department of Transport and the National Treasury to jointly relook at the options and submit new proposals.
As it stands, however, South Africans are still required to pay their e-tolls.
Mbalula said his department is committed to finding a workable solution to maintaining e-tolls that does not “drown the country in debt” – but is equally sensitive to the public’s issues with the scheme.
“Once it is clear on the sustainable model, a submission will then be made for cabinet’s final decision,” he said.
In addition, he said it is not possible to announce a date for a decision on the future of e-tolls, as discussions surrounding the funding of the system will need to take place.
“The process to pronounce on the future of the e-toll will take time, as the two Transport and Finance ministers had to first meet, and in their meeting they agreed that further studies be conducted to inform the decision to be made,” said Mbalula.
This follows the government announcing in February 2020 that a decision regarding e-tolls would be “imminent”.
A new cut-off date of 20 May 2021 was set, but the day came and went with no new announcements made.
Afterwards, Mbalula told the National Council of Provinces that a decision was once again “imminent”.
In response to the e-toll decision debacle, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) asked finance minister Enoch Godongwana to waive all outstanding e-toll debt.
In September, Godongwana told a meeting of ANC leaders that Gauteng is home to R4.6 billion in outstanding e-toll debt, but cautioned the party against forgiving this debt.
Outa chief executive Wayne Duvenage said the state has no other option but to waive this debt as uncollectible, though, as motorists have been defying the “irrational and grossly inefficient scheme” for years.
“Since July 2019, cabinet has been promising us a solution to the e-tolls impasse, but the self-imposed deadlines repeatedly pass by. Outa calls on minister Godongwana to help resolve the cabinet’s stalemate and engage with Outa to understand alternative solutions posed,” he said.
According to Duvenage, this decision is more urgent than ever as Sanral’s final contract extension with e-toll collections agency ETC expires on 2 December 2021.
Sanral has extended this contract several times, although this has been legally questionable, he said.